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We have 7 endangered cities if ocean levels rise

A MASSIVE iceberg, said to be as large as the United States state of Delaware split off from Antarctica’s Larsen C Shelf in the South Pole early this month. The iceberg is said to have an area of about 5,800 square kilometers – bigger than our Cebu island – and weighs over a trillion tons.

While this process of iceberg calving is a natural one, the one that broke off was an unusually big one and scientists will be looking if it was due to climate change. There has been a marked increase in solar radiation absorbed in polar ice regions since the year 2000 and this has been attributed to increased carbon emissions by the world’s industrial nations. Thus, at the Paris Climate Change Conference of December, 2015, the world’s nations agreed to take steps to cut down their respective industrial emissions so as to limit rising global temperatures to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Among the fears raised at the Paris conference was that melting glaciers would significantly raise ocean levels around the world, thus endangering island nations like the Philippines. Last Friday, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) released a report warning that unabated climate change now threatens to undo many developments and advancements of the last decades, as nations incur high economic losses.

The ADB report said continuing reliance on fossil fuels – gas, oil, coal – will see the world’s most populous region – Asia – facing prolonged heat waves, rising sea levels, and changing windfall patterns that will disrupt ecosystems.

The report warned that 25 cities in the world would be endangered by a one-meter rise in sea levels, 19 of them in Asia and seven in the Philippines – Manila, Caloocan, Malabon, and Taguig in Metro Manila, Iloilo in the Visayas, and Davao and Butuan in Mindanao.

The ADB report stressed the economic losses that would result from flooding in low-lying areas, aside from stronger typhoons and heavier rains. Agriculture would suffer, with rice yields in some countries of Southeast Asia expected to decline by 50 percent by 2100. The report also warned of lowered energy supply and consequently conflicts among countries competing for the limited supply.

We thus have these two reports within weeks of each other – the breaking up of a giant glacier in Antarctica and a warning of rising sea levels and their possible ill effects on the world economy – and both reports are of great interest to us in the Philippines.

As a signatory to the Paris Climate Change Agreement, we will seek to do our part to mitigate global climate change.

But, at the same time, we must prepare ourselves for its possible ill effects, especially our seven cities listed as among the 25 endangered cities of the world should ocean levels, despite all our efforts, rise around the world.

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